Volunteers tell us their thoughts:
|Anita Puntney, RN - Repeat Volunteer
Jeffrey Rizor MD --
Several years ago when "midlife" questions started to bother me, as if by providence Pam appeared in my life. I talked to her one day and in 24 hours committed myself to her first medical trip to a poverty stricken remote location in Honduras. How I was going to use my unique knowledge, experience and talents was now obvious. No one knew exactly what this first trip would be like. I expected a clinic full of rare tropical diseases but was instead greeted by the common maladies of humanity -- headaches, backaches, indigestion, rashes and anxiety/insomnia with an occasional case of dengue and leishmaniasis. These were people who had never had even basic healthcare. Soon our yearly clinics included dentists, "doctores de la vista" (eye doctors), and now even veterinarians! At first it was difficult to get the women to have an "examen de mujer" (gyn exam) and PAP -- now those lines are the longest! Parasite control, basic sanitation lectures, eye exams, dental care and family planning are concepts that have begun to be routine in these remote mountain villages -- all from a small contribution by a few healthcare providers and our helpers. And for me personally, I now have a new "family" (Honduran!) to think about and a group of the most generous friends who are trying to change the world with small, personal peaceworks.
Regan Buzzelli, PA-C --
As luck would have it, Pam Burwell returned an email from a total stranger and, better yet, still had one spot to fill on the trip. I had been searching for the right chance to use my medical skills in an underserved area and wanted to travel to a new place. I fulfilled both of these goals, and gained so much more, when I joined Peacework Medical Projects.
The first thing I learned in Santa Lucia, is that roosters don't just crow at dawn like in the cartoons. They crow all day and all night! For this, earplugs work wonderfully. Next I learned what a friendly and warm group of people I would be spending the next two weeks with, as we laughed, toiled and sweat together.
What captured my heart--and makes me return for a second year--is the genuine and honest manner in which the Hondurans approached "los gringos", who came to offer whatever treatment and help we could. My patients wanted to have someone listen to them, hold their hand, smile and nod while they told of their life's hardships and triumphs. Most suffered with the common ailments that come from poverty, endemic in that part of the world. Some were in dire need of urgent medical attention. All were seen in turn, and then we were fed wonderful homemade meals!
The village children's laughter floats through the photos in my album. More often than not, their giggles were at my humble attempts to speak their language. They were curious, energetic and always underfoot. I helped deliver a baby boy one night, and I can't wait to see how he's changed.
The benefits of running this clinic reach far in to Honduras, and get carried home in the hearts of all of us. When friends and colleagues ask me about my trip, they always wistfully add, "I've always wanted to do something like that." I'm so thankful to Pam and all my fellow volunteers for making this project sustainable. Because of them, I get to "do something like that" year after year!
Anita Puntney, RN
Peacework Medical Projects has become something of a way of life since 2001. It's certainly more than a hobby, and I wouldn't change a thing.
Probably the most important part of the work for me is the connection we have with our patients. We really get to know them; we watch families evolve, and we have become a part of their lives as well.
I staff the gynecology clinic every year. Many of the women who come for their Paps and check ups are like old friends. Even with the language barrier, we communicate with a sincerity that I wish I could have in all my conversations.
I've been to Santa Lucia, Yoro, for every clinic that we have produced there- and this will be the 6th in 2006. The little village has more self respect and a sense of hope since we arrived. I have no way of measuring the value of this, but I know it means everything to me.
Scott Borchardt, RN
Being a nurse in Santa Lucia with Peacework is quite a diversion from my typical job as a captain in the US Army reserves....and this can often be a good and challenging thing.
For five years now, I've been with the team. I seem to have taken on two tasks over time: operating the pharmacy and, and I'm not sure how to say this, chief of duct tape and rope tying. While the latter may not seem like standard RN work, believe me, duct tape and rope really matters here.
That's what I love about Peacework projects: we all get to do just a little more, a little differently, than in "real life". It's a good camping trip and an even better medical clinic. I'll be back again in 2006.
Molly Mulligan, Interpreter
In thinking about what to share, I looked back on my musings from my two past trips to Santa Lucia, and I found a bit of writing about the children and how much joy they bring to my heart when they come running into the schoolyard as we set up camp. They are shy and withdrawn at first but soon riled up and scrambling to hold our hands and ask where the missing members of our group are. They are beautiful children with huge brown eyes and giggly smiles. They are raised without the interruption of television and derive great joy from learning songs like "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes," and "Ring Around the Rosy." The boys carry slingshots and firewood and the girls run down to the corn grinder at a 5 o'clock every morning with a tub full of corn for the day's tortillas. And they all derive extreme joy from calling out our strange gringo names each time we pass on the road.
As an interpreter, I get to repeat everything that everyone says. I have the opportunity to translate all of the emotions and feelings that the people of Santa Lucia and neighboring villages want to share with us. They are hard working people who cherish their families and remain in a state of poverty that is limiting, if not crushing. Yet they live their lives like the richest people in the world, full of dignity and with persistence and perserverance.
My time spent with Peacework is one of the biggest gifts I have in my life and I cherish my fellow volunteers who are also hard working and persistent people who can all appreciate the work we do, especially in light of the changes we see as each year goes by. It is a blessing to be part of a grassroots organization that has truly blossomed and which will continue to act as an agent of positive change.
Dana Puerto Mejia - Medical Student/Interpreter –
Peacework Medical Projects... who would've known that these three words would change my life so much!
It's well known that "Everything happens for a reason". Guess what? It's true! Ever since I found out about this organization (eternally grateful, Jennifer), it has all come to me as a reason, or confirmation, that what I'll do is what I was born here to.
I cannot be more grateful to all the people who take so much of their time, aknowledge and money to make this all possible. You guys are unbelievable! And these years, are the greatest experience a person can have, both in med lessons and life lessons. You have all become my tutors, my friends and my family, and I hope and expect to do this
with you for a very long time.
On a final note, and as Grandma used to say: God bless them all for giving us so much of them. I hope they know they take a lot of our love too.
Much love to all and everyone of you, and God bless you always.
María Gicela Mejia Dominguez - Country Host Family/Team Support –
The largest satisfaction may feel a person is to serve humanity from any aspect of our lives, to sing a song, or simply chat or exchange ideas with other people. So when share how much or little that we have with our fellow human beings a thank you from the heart or a smile, this is the best incentive to continue with our mission, to get to where that has least. Why Peacework Veterans, Honduras and specifically Nacaome, with all their problems and needs, their
strengths and weaknesses will them be eternally grateful and as always awaits with a brotherly hug. We must go ahead because our mission is to serve.
Jeffrey R. Vaughn - Paramedic/RN –
At least once each day I think “I wish I was in Honduras”.
The reason for those thoughts vary from occurrence to occurrence. Sometimes it is something simple that causes the urge to head south, like a desire for a good thick cup of Honduran coffee, a really cold Salva Vida, a nap in a hammock with a cool breeze or a delicious meal eaten with our host family. But more often the thought is triggered by something deeper than that, like missing the sense of camaraderie that I feel when the team has bonded and there is a shared sense of mission and purpose. Or remembering the sense of satisfaction and appreciation you feel when you have seen 240 patients, in a building with a leaking roof, in the pouring rain, with intermittent electricity, and people still stop you on the street to thank you for your service to their community.
Peacework isn’t some romantic adventure where you arrive in a exotic foreign country looking like a movie star and then save the natives from some dread disease, or heroically treat war casualties under fire. If that is what you think it might be, well surprise, it’s not. Not even close. It is mostly just hard work in places that are hot and humid. The people you will serve are kind and generous, sharing what they have and welcoming you into their community and homes, and those human connections are what makes Peacework Medical Projects so worthwhile. I guarantee you, if you go into a mission with the right attitude, you will bring home much more than you have given.
Peacework Medical Projects has a way of sticking with you wherever you go. You take the flexibility and patience back with you to work. You take kindness and generosity home with you to share with family, friends and neighbors. What you leave behind hopefully are good memories, lasting friendships and a community that is healthier because of your willingness to spend your time and knowledge with them.